Featured Customer: Congregation Ale House

At Congregation Ale House beer is religion.

Focus Featured Customer Congregation Ale HouseThe staff is eager to spread the word, not just about their own creations but also those of fellow brewers. They speak with the passion that only a true believer could. This is just one of the things separating Congregation Ale House from the many other beer bars in LA and Orange County, they are truly excited to talk hops with you and that feeling is contagious.

With three locations in Azusa, Pasadena and Long Beach the team at Congregation Ale House was looking to upgrade their POS so they could increase efficiency, unify menus, and implement new tech like online ordering before setting their attention to expanding in Orange County.

Partnering with our friends at ToGo Technologies, Congregation Ale House has rolled out online ordering at all their locations. This has allowed them to extend their take-out business with a simple ordering flow that made sense for their menu.

Check out what they have on tap by visiting their website at http://congregationalehouse.com/.

Are you ready for summer?!

You can already feel the warm California sun ready to soak us in its glory.

Summer is here. Coming with it the hoards of people… the staycationers, the adventurous locals and visitors to our great state come to bathe in the summer glow of California.

For local restaurants and bars, especially those in beach towns, the summer season can be incredibly busy. We have put together a checklist of items to plan for a successful summer.

Social Media

Put your social media on auto-pilot. Find a platform such as Buffer to manage and schedule your social posts so you can take less time executing timely marketing.

Hire Staff

Extra guests mean a need for more staff. You can always turn to Craigslist or instead check out services like Seasoned to find local talent.

Summer Specials

Plan out your summer specials to take advantage of seasonal favorites. Melissa’s Produce has a great list of seasonal items on their website. Fine-tuning your menu for the summer is best done before you get too busy. Not sure you can get the setup done in a timely manner? Our team can handle any FOCUS menu changes or workflow changes for you.

Extra Hardware

Having backup hardware that can be swapped in place when needed can reduce any downtime during a busy rush. Need additional devices to increase speed and efficiency? Hardware can be purchased and installed as a permanent device or temporary loaner. We even have options for mobile devices that can be used at festivals or other off-site events.

Plenty of Supplies

Running out of paper or ribbon should never happen. Our office keeps supplies stocked so you can get quick shipments locally. Take advantage of our supplies subscriptions so don’t forget to place an order.

Going Paperless in Your Restaurant or Bar

In a world of high tech everything, there is still a constant struggle between maintaining current habits and adapting to the new technology trends. Restaurants and bars are no exception to this ongoing dilemma. We hear from many of our clients who still continue to debate on whether it makes sense to go paperless or stick with printing guest receipts and orders. No matter the size of your operation, there are options that can help you either reduce printing on paper or eliminate it all together.

Let’s start off with taking a look at the kitchen, bar or other prep areas. Kitchen video has long been a staple for any high volume fast paced environment. Orders pop onto a screen that can show either full order details or simple item views depending on the needs of the person reviewing that order. Routing to each station is just as simple as it is in FOCUS, however, you also have more complicated workflow options based on modifiers or load balancing options. Besides not having paper copies of orders that can be lost, since the order data is being tracked at each step of the way you are able to see additional analytical data such as average ticket time and details of the cook times on each item.

Focus POS Rear Display Quick ServiceFor a Quick Service operation, printing at the POS station can be eliminated by utilizing FOCUS’ Signature Capture option. When processing a credit card transaction, the guest can input a digital signature on the point of sale touch screen. This can be achieved with either a station on a swivel base that can be turned and presented to the guest or our favorite option is a rear touch LCD display. The rear display can also be used for up-selling and order confirmation during the ordering process.

In a Table Service or Bar environment, getting a guest to a POS station is not really feasible. However other options such as using pay at the table devices, tablets or accepting payments through third-party applications can allow the payment to be processed with the guest so the signature can either be captured a the time of payment or possibly not even required.

New changes instituted by the credit card brands will also make signature obsolete for anyone processing with EMV. A recent article on Creditcards.com (https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/signatures-soon-may-not-be-required.php) explains that Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express all dropped the signature requirements.

But what does that mean for tips? The consensus so far has been even with getting rid of signatures most restaurants and bars will still present a check in some form to be able to collect a tip from the guest.

In the end, there are multiple options that each operation will need to evaluate to see what makes the most sense for each business. Our team is always here to review those options with you. Click here to schedule time with a Solution Engineer.

Featured Customer: Board & Brew

Focus POS at Board & Brew Tustin Quick ServiceAnyone who has been to Board & Brew at their San Diego or Orange County locations will tell you about the Secret Sauce, and yes it is one of the things that makes their sandwiches highly addicting but its not the only thing. Its also the bread, the fresh ingredients, and the ever rotating list of craft beers being tapped. But look beyond that and you will see a dedicated team committed to pumping out high quality nosh to their community.

When opening their newest location late last year in Tustin they chose to roll out technology the group had previously not used. The goal for them is to move more locations to be paperless saving both time and supplies. The FOCUS Signature Capture option allows a digital signature to be captured using either a station that swivels or has an additional rear touch display. At the Tustin Board & Brew location they are utilizing rear displays for Order Confirmation and Signature Capture. For the kitchen they are utilizing a kitchen video screen at their Expo area allowing expediters a clear view of all current orders. When orders are completed they are bumped from the KDS and a pager that was provided to the guest goes off so they know to pickup the order. This streamlining has allowed for both better service and increased efficiency.

You can find the closest Board & Brew location by visiting their website, http://www.boardandbrew.com/. Stop by see FOCUS in action, but more importantly enjoy a tasty sandwich with some Secret Sauce and cold beer. We highly recommend the Turkado and Tom’s Choice!

3 Obvious Reasons to Focus on Customer Retention and Loyalty

Repeat customers are a good thing, obviously. That’s why many restaurants invest time and resources into cultivating customer retention and loyalty as a part of their larger business strategy. Methods vary from offering a loyalty card program where diners earn points or rewards to using social media to connect with fans and acknowledge brand champions. There are three main, and probably obvious, reasons why you should be incorporating this strategy too.

Obvious Reason #1 — Regulars are Your Best Brand Advocates

Customer retention and loyalty are worthwhile focus areas whether you are just getting ready to open your doors or if you’ve been cooking up good eats in your neighborhood for 50 years.

This is where a comprehensive loyalty program comes in. Customers are highly motivated to return to restaurants where they have a vested interest, that is, in addition to a delicious meal or your great atmosphere. Loyalty rewards, carefully  selected to be irresistible to your customers, can bring guests back and make their dining experiences more delightful. These happy patrons are the ones that are in the trenches, talking to their friends and family and becoming your biggest brand advocates. Their reach is exponential and their recommendations matter.

Obvious Reason #2 — Your Marketing will be More Effective

Another obvious reason to focus on customer retention and loyalty is because it will make your advertising, social media and promotional efforts infinitely more effective. The audience demographic information alone like, address, email, birth dates, and dining history alone is worth its weight in gold, allowing you to tailor messaging and promotions at the right time to the right people. A good loyalty program solution will offer integrated marketing services and give you the ability to push promotions directly to your most loyal customers through email, social media or text message.

Obvious Reason #3 — Loyalty Programs are Low Maintenance and Low CosteMarketer Loyalty Program

Exceptional customer service and consistently great food are the foundation for inspiring repeat visits to your establishment. However, a little recognition and reward, like a loyalty program, goes a long way in building customer retention and loyalty. That’s why loyalty programs are popping up everywhere…and why they are working.

eMarketer featured research from Lab42 that focused on Gen Z and millennial motivators. They found 73% of millennials factored in loyalty programs when it came to choosing where to spend their money.

Compared to traditional advertising venues like radio or television, loyalty programs are on the low end of the spectrum for cost and they are very low maintenance. Most integrate directly into your point of sale system and are essentially hands off once they are implemented and your staff is trained on how to handle the cards.

Don’t Miss the Loyalty Reward Program Boat

It should be obvious that you need to step up your game to stay competitive.  If  you are looking to revamp the customer retention and loyalty strategy at your quick or table service restaurant, bar or nightclub, then it is a good time to talk with us about our FOCUS loyalty program.

3 Restaurant Technologies that Make an Impact at Your Table Service or Quick Service Restaurant

3 Restaurant Technologies that Make an Impact at Your Table Service or Quick Service Restaurant

Restaurant technologies are all about streamlining processes, increasing sales and most importantly, improving the dining in—or out as it may be—experience at your table service or quick service restaurant. The three restaurant technologies that we see having the biggest impact on restaurant operations are mobile reporting, online ordering and integrated loyalty and rewards programs.

1. Mobile Reporting

Mobile reporting is a restaurant technology that is starting to come standard with many restaurant point of sale software options on the market.  Maybe the ability to access your restaurant’s reports and data doesn’t seem like a game changer but it definitely is.

Being able to access food and beverage sales numbers, table turnover times, and average ticket times from a mobile app gives managers freedom and more importantly, real-time visibility. This is especially vital for managers or owners that need to bounce between locations or can’t be onsite all the time.

2. Online Ordering

An online ordering portal opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for quick service and table service establishments and is one of the main restaurant technologies to consider adopting if you haven’t already. Millennials and now even Gen Z, who incidentally spent $78 billion on dining out in 2016 according to a report by Technomic, are driving the trend for restaurants to offer more delivery and take out options that can be ordered ahead of time from their laptop or phone. They want to eat whenever and wherever they want.

The upside for you is that orders submitted online can totally bypass a server and go directly to your point of sale system and into production. Third-party ordering apps like ToGo  are making this kind of integration possible.

3. Integrated Loyalty and Rewards Program

Restaurant technologies that support loyalty and rewards programs integrate with your point of sale system fairly simply. You can participate in standalone programs that essentially plug into your current POS software or your point of sale service provider may offer a program you can enroll in.

Either way, implementing and maintaining a rewards program is easier than it’s ever been, and they usually offer added marketing components like list segmentation and demographic reports, email and social marketing aspects—and some even loop gift cards into the same system so you have one central location from which to generate and manage all your cards.

Some of the many benefits of investing in a loyalty or rewards program for your restaurant are:

  • Creating repeat customers
  • Offering targeted promotions and coupons
  • Using data analytics to refine your marketing strategy

If you are at the point where your table service or quick service restaurant is ready to invest in new restaurant technologies like mobile reporting, online ordering or a rewards program, make an appointment to talk with a Focus POS California expert to discuss exactly how easy it is to implement a time-saving and revenue-generating restaurant technology.  

Why It’s Smart to Accept Chip Cards in Your Bar or Nightclub

It’s more than a good idea: It’s become pretty risky to not accept chip cards in your bar or nightclub. Before the liability shift in 2015, you could rely on the issuing bank to eat fraudulent payment card charges made in your establishment, but that is no longer the case. Now, you are directly responsible to pay back the money, PLUS fines and fees. Ouch.

If you haven’t done it yet, don’t worry. Most bars and restaurants in the U.S. have been sluggishly adopting the new technology. However, it’s now time to act and figure out what you need to do to accept chip cards from patrons. We suggest starting by talking to your point of sale provider.

You can read more about why you should accept EMV/chip cards in our recent blog, Why You Need to CYA by Accepting EMV Payments.

Say Goodbye to the Swipe

Chip cards, also known as EMV cards, eliminate swiping all together. The new cards, which probably have replaced all your old magnet strip cards in your own wallet right now, are inserted into a chip card reader instead of being swiped.

EMV technology is much more secure since it generates a new processing number each time the card is read, and that number cannot be duplicated. In fact, these chip cards have dramatically reduced credit card fraud. When the European Union implemented the chip cards they saw an 80% reduction in fraudulent charges, according to Kiosk Marketplace.  

By the way, if you have FOCUS software, not to worry, your point of sale is fully capable of handling alternative payment methods.

Chip Cards Won’t Slow You Down

What does accepting chip cards mean for your nightclub or bar? For one, it does not mean a slowdown in service. Great strides have been made to speed up processing times on chip card readers and with a little bit of training and tweaking of work flows you have set up for your bartenders and cocktail servers, they shouldn’t miss a beat when switching from swiping to chip card terminals. Focus is currently beta testing a new feature that allows bartenders and cocktail servers to start a tab with a chip card, the same way they are used to running a bar tab with a swipe.

There are three ways you can speed up processing time in your bar or nightclub:

  1. Upgrade your internet connection – don’t let your network slow down your bar business
  2. Have the right point of sale – don’t let your POS hold you back from accepting EMV and other alternative payments
  3. Keep up with the latest payment terminals – the latest payments technology is imperative for getting the fastest processing speeds

Not to mention, few bar owners want to take on the costs associated with credit card fraud. It’s simply not worth the risk.

Going to the Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas? So are we! Come see us at booth 421 and we can discuss how Focus POS California can help you achieve your business goals.

5 Restaurant Trends You’ll See This Year

As we head into 2018 there are five restaurant trends that you can anticipate seeing as the focus of many business goals for the upcoming year for fast casual, quick service, table service, or bars and nightclubs.  Being in the trenches, talking with restaurant owners and operators every day, we can see the trends emerging in the hospitality industry before most. From mobile point of sale to accepting chip cards and new ways to connect with customers, you should take note of these five trends.

1 – Implementing Mobile Point of Sale

Letting your wait and bar staff loose from the chains of a stationary point of sale unit to provide faster, more efficient service to your customers can be a freeing experience and a restaurant trend we’re a big fan of. Putting mobile technology into your employees’ hands allows them to complete foundational functions like order taking, input and accepting payments on the fly, cutting out wasted steps and shaving off precious minutes. Think faster orders, faster turn times and happier customers. That is the very capabilities you can get from Focus Mobile Solutions.

2 – Offering Delivery Service Through Third-Party Integrations

Even fine dining establishments are jumping on the online order wagon in an effort to satisfy customer demands. Online ordering is going to explode in 2018, and thanks to innovative software like Chowly, which connects third-party online ordering platforms (Chow Now, Grubhub, delivery.com) directly to your point of sale, you can streamline your online order process and eliminate the need for a dedicated employee to enter orders manually into your POS.  It just so happens that Focus POS will integrate with Chowly in the very near future, taking your delivery service, no matter your type of restaurant, to the next level, adding to your revenue stream.

3 – Finding Ways to Cut Labor Costs

Number three on our list of restaurant trends for 2018: pretty much anything related to cutting labor costs in your restaurant or bar. Kitchen display systems are a key technology that has the potential to transform your back of the house (BOH) processes. These customizable interfaces give your kitchen the ability to visually organize orders and get rid of the clutter by banishing paper from the line forever.

4 – Building and Improving Customer Relationships

“It’s like they know me!” That’s what you want your restaurant customers saying about you in 2018. That happens through a deep knowledge of their eating habits and dining history and that happens through analytics and reporting. Think about the way that Amazon makes product suggestions to you based on your purchase history. Restaurants, no matter the size, can do the same thing. You can offer promotions and marketing strategically targeted to your patrons. A loyalty program like Focus Rewards is a perfect platform to gather that historical data and related demographic information that can drive your messaging and deliver the right message at the right time. This strategy will inspire your guests to either hop in the car to dine with you or jump online and order a meal from you.

5 – Accepting Alternative Payment Methods

Reducing credit card fraud. Limiting chargebacks.  Decreasing liability. Those are just a few of the benefits of accepting the new security-advanced payment methods like chip cards and mobile payments like Apple Pay. Not only that but you’ll be ready for the next generation of diners who are more tech savvy and are more comfortable waving than swiping. Installing software and hardware that can accommodate a wider variety of payment methods is definitely one of the restaurant trends you’ll see in 2018.

We’re excited about the shifting tide in the hospitality industry that is hyper-customer-focused and heavily favors tech. Focus POS California has the hardware, software and expertise to partner with you to take your restaurant or bar to the next level this year and really help you accomplish your business goals.

3 Reasons to Let mPOS Set the Pace in Your Restaurant

The use of mobile POS (mPOS) in restaurants is becoming more and more popular due to the many advantages it offers to businesses and their customers. In fact, nearly 51% of small and large restaurants have considered using an alternative mPOS system to help bolster service speed and workflow efficiency. If you currently use mobile devices as part of your POS process, do you know if they are being used to their fullest potential?

Here are three reasons to let mPOS capabilities set the pace in your restaurant:

Greater Speed

When your wait staff uses handheld devices such as tablets or smartphones, they can take food and drink orders and process payments right at the customer table. The order is immediately transmitted to the food prep station or bar. This helps eliminate wasted back and forth steps by the server to complete transactions. Increased speed results in faster customer service and table turnaround.

Increased Face Time

Utilizing an mPOS system at your eating establishment not only speeds up overall service, but it gives the wait staff more time to focus on the customer’s needs. The increased face time makes the ordering process more conversational and enjoyable.

Your staff can quickly access food information on the tablet for customer inquiries about options or dietary needs. Servers can have more opportunity to upsell by offering appetizer or drink specials, which can be added to the meal. By spending more time meeting diners’ needs, you enhance their experience and increase customer loyalty.

More Efficient Workflow

Improving the workflow is another advantage of implementing an mPOS at your restaurant. Food orders that are transmitted from the table directly to the kitchen staff ensures that the customer gets exactly what they want without errors because they are easy to read and understand.

Servers can also input drink orders tableside with the mobile device. Orders then go directly to the bar for pickup without having to wait for drink preparation or stop at a stationary terminal for order entry.

An mPOS system can potentially allow all of your wait staff to add orders and process payments at the same time without the need to wait in line to use the traditional POS terminal. Suddenly, you will find serving more customers at a faster pace and turning tables around quickly is leading to greater revenues.

Restaurants using mPOS for faster operations and greater efficiency is gaining momentum in this ever-evolving technology age. Personalized service is something your customers want and what you need to provide. Happy, loyal customers keep your profits on the rise. Can you afford to fall behind the pace?

Talk to Focus CA about mobile POS options including Apple iPad, iPad mini, and purpose-built POS ready tablets. We can also help you with processes and training to get the most out of your mPOS investment.

The Ins and Outs of a Cloud POS Solution

What is the cloud and why does your restaurant need a cloud POS solution? We’re glad you asked. First, let’s take the mystery out of what the cloud is, exactly. The cloud is, in its simplest form, a virtual space on the internet. When data is accessed through the internet instead of off a local server in the back of one of your restaurants, it’s considered to be in the cloud.

Second, of course you can function without a cloud POS solution BUT there are so many benefits to the cloud versus an on-premises point of sale system that it makes good business sense to make the move in that direction.

Cloud POS Benefits

  • Instant access to your data from any mobile device including smartphones, tablets and laptops. This means you can monitor what’s happening in your restaurant from anywhere.
  • Information is constantly backed up and secure. When you have a cloud POS system the onus is on the software vendor to store, secure and backup your data so that is never lost or compromised.
  • Working within the cloud means that you are automatically running the very latest software release.

In the end the cloud is whatever — and wherever — you need it to be. For fast casual, table service or delivery restaurants the cloud can be a point of sale system that makes running the business side of your operations infinitely easier.

The Pros and Cons of a Cloud POS

When you consider a cloud POS solution though, there are some cons that you need to address. The main — and most important one — is internet access. If your cloud POS solution is dependent on an internet connection, you should also have a solid Plan B for when the internet goes out. Think about how frustrating it is when your credit card machine is offline and the havoc that can wreak. Times that by ten when your whole point of sale is out of commission because you can’t connect to the internet.

Luckily, Focus POS California has recognized the benefits of the cloud and combined them with the benefits of a traditional point of sale. FocusCloud is the perfect marriage of cloud based technology and on-premises reliability. You get the best of both worlds. You get the instant access to data from any mobile device, you get the peace of mind knowing your data is backed up at all times, and you can stop worrying about upgrades and updates to your software.

Plus, FOCUS is structured it so you can operate offline as well. The internet going out is not a catastrophic event. On top of all that you get near zero downtime. If your primary station goes down, we shift to the next available one allowing you to continue normal operations

Before you think that you can’t afford to have your cake and eat it too with FocusCloud, check out our pricing structure and then get in touch with us to schedule a demo.